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Given appropriate planning, there is no bad time to visit Denali National Park and the surrounding area. Every season demonstrates the raw beauty that is the Alaskan wilderness. If you want to test your mettle and have an artic adventure, winter in Denali is harsh but beautiful. If you’re like us and you want more than just you and the rangers in the park, plan to visit in the summer.
Let’s find the best time for you to visit Denali!
Summer is the most popular time to visit Denali National Park
Mid-June through mid-August
Summer in Denali starts in mid-June and runs through mid-August. This is the most popular time of year to visit the Denali area and Denali National Park & Preserve. A such, this is also the busiest time of year for the area hotels, cruise lines, and adventure companies.
Visitors love the summer in Denali for several reasons:
- Summer has the most reliably warm weather
- A summer day in Denali can have up to 22 hours of sunlight
- The summer season offers the widest variety of outdoor activities and excursions
July is the hottest month of the year in Denali with an average high of 65°F (18°C) and low of 51°F (10.5°C). This is the most popular time of year for most Denali area activities, including hiking, camping and outdoor excursions. Still keep in mind there are multiple microclimates in the Denali region due to changes in elevation and terrain, which makes it difficult to predict the weather in any given location on any given day.
The peak amount of daylight relative to night is on the summer solstice, which can take place on June 20, 21, or 22 depending on the year. At that time, you’ll enjoy up to 22 hours of sunlight, which, for most travelers, is a once in a lifetime experience. It also means more hours to do more activities and make the most of your trip! You can sleep on the plane home. 🙂
Visiting during the summer is very popular so you’re less likely to get discounts on flights or hotels. Adventure companies in Denali tend to have consistent rates on adventure tours throughout the season.
The shoulder months offer the chance of travel deals and the Northern Lights
Early Summer (mid-May through early June)
Although tourism for Denali National Park is at its peak during the middle of summer, the summer tourist season starts in mid-May when most companies and hotels are open and ready for guests.
If you have any question about the availability of something that is high on your list of things to do while you are here, be sure to call the company to make sure that they will be open.
Late Summer (mid-August to mid-September)
There are several benefits to traveling to Denali after the peak of summer. The risk of inclement weather increases in late August and early September, but what you get in return may be well worth it.
- Save a bit on travel and hotels. If you are looking to spend a little less money, with the tradeoff of risking cooler weather, then start thinking about booking your trip for mid to late August. This is when area businesses start to see a decline in business on average, and you’ll likely be able to find cheaper rates on flights, and in some cases on lodging.
- Experience the Northern Lights and autumn in Alaska. The chance to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), as well as the onset of early autumn and the changing of the foliage is amazing. Additionally, the night sky in general starts to bloom, meaning great opportunities for astronomic photography besides the Northern Lights.
- Crisp, cool weather can be great for outdoors activities. Late summer can still be a great time to hike and camp because the cooler weather helps when you’re doing strenuous activity, like hiking mountains with a backpack on.
The summer tourist season usually starts to end around the beginning of September. We recommend calling ahead to book lodging and adventure tours to make sure that the companies are still operating.
Most of Denali is closed for business in Winter
While Denali National Park is open year-round, almost all the businesses in the Denali area are closed to tourists during winter and are instead preparing for the summer season. Access to adventure tourism and to the park is limited during the winter.
Visiting in the winter requires advance planning. Our advice is to make sure to call ahead and check to make sure you have confirmed your accommodations and activities. Don’t come to Denali in the winter planning to be spontaneous. Save those impulsive plane ticket purchases for the summer.
If you would like to plan to visit Denali during the winter, make sure that you are prepared to contend with limited services in the rural interior areas of Alaska. Activities such as ice climbing, skating, nighttime photography, backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are all available in winter for those with the prowess and resources. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity see the Northern Lights and experience the snowy landscape.
The best time to visit Denali National Park is during the summer tourist season
You can’t go wrong when picking a day to visit Denali National Park and the Denali area during the summer tourist season (May – September). You’ll have an amazing trip whether you visit during the shoulder months, on the summer solstice, or in July/August. The choice comes down to your preferences for timing, budget, and the activities in which you want to participate.
During your visit, you might zipline over a snow-covered boreal forest, hike in the heat, or ride an ATV under the midnight sun in the rain. The temperature might change from freezing to a balmy 90 degrees – you may even experience that all in the same day. As they say in Scandinavia, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. This is just as true in Alaska so bring your sense of adventure, a desire to have fun, and a jacket.
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